Wingman from the Roadside:
It was Thursday, August 8th when we arrived back to North Bend after a really enjoyable journey home. We had been gone for 72 days and now we had a bit of adjusting to do even though it was really nice to be home. The first few days were filled with unpacking the trailer, stowing gear, and opening mail. We got to work in the garden which we both really enjoy and it was in need of some serious care. Despite the lack of attention, the garlic survived and was ready for pulling. We had carrots, volunteer tomatoes, and a lot of parsnips ready to harvest. The kids and grandkids came over frequently, our friends came by to visit, and the cat was hanging around the house way more than usual. The frequent visits of family and friends was a big part of helping us settle back in.
Two weeks after our return my buddy Jim came down from the mountains for a visit, we went to Seattle to have dinner with Peggy’s mom which is always fun, and our neighbors had their annual summer barbecue. The third week we took a bunch of food and met several neighbors at the local tap room for a beer and then went to a play at the theatre across the street. I had suggested the idea and bought the tickets for six of us to see “Psycho”, a play I thought was a comedy. Well it wasn’t, and I felt sure by the end of the long “drama” that my friends were going to go psycho on me. Regardless, it was a fun night.
Near the end of August we received a text from our trail friend Clax again who we had met, along with Timi and Alpaca, during the first few days on the PCT. Clax had a trail friend “Psyched” who had gotten sick on the trail in the vicinity of Snoqualmie Pass and he asked if she could come here to rest and recover for a while. Of course, there was no question about it. Psyched was a strong, easy-going young lady attending UC Berkeley and runs on their cross country team. Psyched and Peggy ended up getting along really well. They shared their trail and life experiences and the laughter in the house was great. Psyched was able to get a lot of rest and when the grandkids came over she was on the floor playing with them for hours and watched a movies with us in the evening. It was a pleasant and therapeutic time for Peggy after her own early departure from the trail.
As time went on, we got back on our routine of long morning walks and Runningbird took a job here in town which she really loves and a schedule that will allow her to train and get back on the trail next spring. In late September we got a text from our trail friend Alpaca. He was still on the PCT with his 80-pound pack and would be arriving to Snoqualmie Pass, WA in a couple of days. It was a real relief to know he was okay as the days of rain had returned and the nights were getting cold. I was out of town so Peggy arranged to pick him up after work and brought him home where he thawed out, got cleaned up, slept in a real bed, and ate huge amounts of food. Just a day later she returned him to the trail at Steven’s Pass and he continued north towards Canada. He was trying to pick up the pace and get finished before the snow in the North Cascades got any worse. Alpaca said he would contact us when he got to Canada and I had agreed to drive up to Manning Park and pick him up so he could get his flight out of Seattle back to Slovakia.
In the coming days the rain came down in the Northwest and the regular reports of the snow in the North Cascades had us worried. The previous year a PCT hiker from New Zealand would not have survived another day or two in the early snow if a section hiker she had met along the way had not taken steps to have Search and Rescue find her. The memory of this event was in our thoughts and conversations over the next few days.
After nearly tow weeks we had received no word from Alpaca and Peggy was getting very concerned. I called a local PCT representative to see what we could do. Peggy called friends with Seattle Search and Rescue and was prepared to contact the Search and Rescue entities in the northern counties and Canada if we didn’t here from him soon. A couple days later I received a text from Alpaca and he would be back at Snoqualmie Pass in two hours! I immediately texted the news on to a very relieved Peggy. But what happened to the pick-up in Manning Park? Where had he been?
It snowed a lot in those days after he had continued north and the nights were cold and his gear never dried out during the days. One night he woke to find his tent and sleeping bag in a puddle of slushy water so he got up and started hiking. From there he just kept on hiking and pushed hard. He finished the hike and immediately found a ride from someone going back down to Steven’s Pass. He decided to hike from there to Snoqualmie Pass to complete the section he had not done before he contacted me.
When I arrived to the parking lot I found Alpaca leaning up against a tree, texting on his cell phone. I drove him down to North Bend and bought him the biggest bacon Cheeseburger at Scott’s Dairy Freeze and we drove home. We got the fireplace going strong and we drank strong beer and whiskey and he ate a lot of hot herb bread Peggy had baked and a whole chicken. We got Alpaca’s gear hung over the upstairs railway to dry and rotated his clothes through the dryer. In the evening Peggy went to bed early as the next morning was a work day for her. Alpaca and I sat in front of the fireplace and drank and talked late into the night. He told me he had texted Peggy from Canada but evidently it never got through. He spoke about what he would do in the days to come when he got home. He had been hiking in Peru before coming to the U.S. and the PCT and was going to compile a documentary on his travels for his country. He had already received many e-mails from groups and schools back home inviting him to speak. His pack had been loaded down with camera gear, solar chargers, and a drone. He had been away from Slovakia and his home for fourteen months now and he was ready to go home and excited to see his family.
From the roadside, it is apparent that the Pacific Crest Trail is a journey of adventure, beauty, and friendships. It’s draw and richness is extremely unique to each individual. On! On!